Mallows Bay Ghost Fleet : 200+ Sunken Ships in MD

I came across this recently and was a little shocked I’d never heard of it before: The Mallows Bay ghost fleet. Over 200 ships +/- in a sunken graveyard on the edge of the Potomac in Maryland. Over 100 wooden steamships built for WW1. Some possibly from earlier.

Pic from the Wikipedia page:

And from a CNN Article:

With the allies needing boats, and fast, President Woodrow Wilson answered the call for help, setting up the Emergency Fleet Corporation to build and operate merchant and military fleets.

“Within a year we had a million men building ships, cutting the timber, mining the iron for them, building the machinery for them. At one point we became the greatest shipbuilding nation in the history of the world,” Shomette says.

“We had to create from nothing a shipping industry that was going to build a thousand wooden ships in 18 months – normally it would take a year and a half to build a wooden steam ship.”

At Hog Island in Pennsylvania, one of three major steel shipyards built by the government, 50 shipways extended for a mile and a quarter down the Delaware River. At its peak, its 30,000-strong workforce was launching vessels every five to six days.
Contracts to build the wooden cargo ships were sent out to shipyards across the U.S. There were eight different designs ranging between 270-300 feet (80-90 meters) in length.

Nearly 400 were completed before the end of the war in November 1918. A handful were sold, some finding work ferrying cargo up and down the Pacific coast and to South America, Shomette says. But for longer, transatlantic trips they were considered uneconomical because of their size – they could only carry around 1,800 tons of freight.

In 1922, the majority were sold for a song to the Western Marine & Salvage company, which set about stripping out reusable metals and parts before burning and sinking the remains.

The company went bust at the start of the Great Depression in 1929, and wildcat salvagers moved in to pick away at the scraps. In the early 1940s, Bethlehem Steel – America’s largest shipbuilder at the time – set about what proved to be another doomed salvage operation.


Not really “sunken ships” as the water most of them are in is only a few feet deep. The pics in that article are not recent, they are probably5-10 years old. I have kayaked there (most recent, last year) and there is not much left of any of them above the water. Lots below and you can clearly see the outlines, including some ship shaped islands. They are deteriorating rapidly, this what’s left of almost all of them:

There is also a still floating abandoned car ferry (steel)


I used to fly over them and check out the trees growing in some of the wrecks.